Red Nose Day making US debut Thursday night

(NBC) — It’s the reason Matt Lauer’s been on a multiday bike ride from Boston to New York — and why Nick Cannon’s in the middle of dancing 24 hours straight. Both are in support of Red Nose Day, the charity fundraising event that makes its U.S. debut Thursday night on NBC.

Americans might still be getting used to the red noses, but Red Nose Day is a 30-year television tradition in the United Kingdom — an annual comedy and music event that’s raised more than $1 billion for numerous charities that help children in poverty around the world.

“It’s going to be an even bigger deal over here,” said country superstar Blake Shelton, who is participating this year. “That’s my mission is to make it an even bigger event  over here and raise even more money.”

Shelton got into the spirit on “The Voice” recently, wearing the signature red nose. The show also hosted Will Ferrell and Nick Offerman for taping a comedy segment — one of many that will air Thursday night.

“The secret is to allow famous people to do something that is actually fun,” said Red Nose Day creator Richard Curtis.

Curtis is also the man behind such films as “Notting Hill.”

“I’ve made most of my life making films that have made Hugh Grant rich and very unhappy,” said Curtis.

But it’s all about smiles Thursday night. “Pitch Perfect”’s Anna Kendrick’s among dozens of stars taking part.

“It’s almost religious,” said celebrity Jack Black. “You feel like you want to reach out to your fellow man.”

Red Nose Day’s roots may be in the U.K., but organizers hope the seed planted stateside Thursday night will grow — and help children around the world.

Red Nose Day begins at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC.

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